Readers who haven’t heard about fan conferences are missing something. They are – to my mind – a unique opportunity for writers and readers to mix. And honestly, aren’t all writers also readers, so it’s a perfect storm.
More seriously, for those choosing which conferences to attend, writers have a to remember that these conferences aren’t about craft. Panels tend to focus on the experience of reading – what’s it like to set a book in a hot climate or why do you write such scary books. If you want a seminar on plot or constructing believable characters pick another type of conference.
That said, fan conferences are a chance for writers to have down time with their fellow scribes and network among colleagues. If you are a beginning writer then you can take advantage of the (often) more relaxed atmosphere and get to know some of your favorite authors and make connections that may help your career down the road (when you need that blurb for your first novel).
For fans who have no intention of writing these conferences are a vacation. I’ve met mother-daughter traveling teams, groups from book clubs who want to take their reading interest to a new level, and families who use the conferences as a base for their vacation (particularly true in cities like New Orleans).
There are large national conferences and small region ones, which means that there is probably an event for all budgets and needs. Some of the ones I’m familiar with for mysteries/thrillers are listed below.
-Thrillerfest in NYC every July (a fan conference with a CraftFest component prior)
-Bouchercon every fall. This conference is huge (which means a little something for all mystery/thriller fans) and moves around North America (guaranteeing a good vacation spot)
-Killer Nashville in August (small enough to have a chance to interact with anyone you want, even the big-name headliners)
-Malice Domestic in Bethesda everypring (focus on cozy mysteries but with room to include others. Again, small enough to allow access to the superstars)
-Suffolk Mystery Festival (I’m going for the first time this year)
I’d love to hear about any other great fan conferences out there!